Introduction: Pamphlet Protector

About: Paper conservator

This is a variation on a four-flap phase box for a fragile pamphlet or a very thin softcover book. The cloth-covered case provides additional protection on a shelf.

Materials needed:

  • 10pt. or 20pt. folder stock (we used 20pt. folder stock from Gaylord Bros.)
  • millboard (we used acid-free Davey board)
  • paper (we used Dove gray acid free paper)
  • waste paper
  • book cloth (we used Canapetta, a cotton-linen blend with acid-free paper backing)
  • glue (we used Jade 711 PVA from Talas); we also used 3M #415 (double-sided) tape for the inner box, but you can use glue for the whole thing

Tools needed:

  • scissors
  • utility knife
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • brush (for glue)
  • bone folder (or Teflon folder)

Thanks to my student assistant, Kyra, whose hands (with nail polish) are demonstrating some of the steps

Step 1: Gather Tools and Supplies

Step 2: Determine the Grain Direction

Before you can measure and cut your supplies, you need to determine the grain direction. The grain must be parallel to the spine of the book.

  • If you moisten a piece of paper, then it will curl with the grain (parallel).
  • If you tear the paper, it will tear cleanly with the grain (parallel); tearing against the grain

    (perpendicular) will be more jagged.

  • For full sheets of material (40 x 32 inches), machine-made papers and boards will often have the grain parallel to the long side (aka "grain long")
  • If you fold the paper or board, then it will crease cleanly parallel to the grain
  • If you roll the paper or board, then you will feel more resistance when rolling against the grain (perpendicular)
  • The grain of book cloth is parallel to the selvage (selvedge)

Step 3: Measure the Folder Stock

First, measure the height (parallel to the spine), width (across the front cover), and thickness of your pamphlet or booklet.

  • Measure the vertical section of the four-flap box (approximately 3 times the height of the book, plus two times the thickness)
  • This part is approximately 3 times the width plus 2 times the thickness of the pamphlet.
  • The tab and slot are not drawn to scale; always measure and cut the tab first and make the slot fit the tab

Step 4: Score and Fold the Folder Stock

Use the bone folder and ruler to score the folder stock and crease it to fit the pamphlet. Remember to add the thickness of the folder stock for the outer flaps (top and right/tab side) to close properly.

Step 5: Create the Tab and Slot Closure

Always create the tab first; then make the slot fit the tab.

  • Locate the tab near the center of the height (about 2-3 inches tall by 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide; about 6 cm by 5 cm)
  • Slope the vertical edges leading from the tab to the head/tail edges (optional)
  • To make the tab slide more smoothly, round the corners after making straight lines

Step 6: Attach the Two Parts of the Box

Use glue or double-sided tape to attach the vertical and horizontal pieces of the 4-flap box.

Step 7: Measure the Millboard

  • The front, rear, and spine boards should be about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) taller than the folder stock box.
  • The front and rear covers should be about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) wider than the folder stock box.
  • The spine should be equal to the thickness of the folder stock box PLUS the thickness of two boards.

Step 8: Measure the Cloth

You will need about one inch (2.5 cm) to wrap around the edges on all four sides. These margins are called "turn-ins."

Don't forget that there has to be a gap between the boards to create "hinges"

Step 9: Cut the Cloth

You will need about one inch (2.5 cm) to wrap around the edges on all four sides. These margins are called "turn-ins."

We used a board shear, but you can use a utility knife and ruler, if you don't have a board shear. Some "paper cutters" may work, but others will tend to tear the edges of the fabric or split it away from the paper backing.

Step 10: Mark the Cloth

To ensure that the boards are glued into the right place, it is a good idea to mark the cloth.

  • Work with the paper side (verso) of the fabric facing up
  • Position your cut mill board on the cloth with a margin for the turn-ins
  • To show the location of the board, mark the cloth around the corners of the board with a pencil
  • Remember to leave a board thickness plus the thickness of the cloth between the spine and the front and rear covers, in order to make hinges to open and close the cover.

Step 11: Glue the Boards

Brush the glue in a pattern that extends from the center to each corner, then from the center to the four sides. Finally fill in with vertical and horizontal brush strokes to even out the layer of glue.

It is also possible to glue the cloth, but it may be difficult to position all of the parts before the glue starts to dry. Adding methylcellulose or wheat starch paste to the PVA adhesive will extend the working time.

Step 12: Trim the Corners

Fold in the edges of the cloth and cut the corners at about a 45-degree angle.

Then make a small horizontal cut from the cloth to the board at the top and bottom (aka "head and tail") edges of the left and right margins (aka "turn-ins") of the cloth.

Step 13: Glue the Turn-ins

  • Press the edges of the turn-ins against the edges of the board
  • Work from the middle toward the corners
  • Glue to top and bottom (head and tail) first, tucking in the small corner flaps
  • Glue the left and right (fore edge) turn-ins last

Step 14: Glue the Spine Strip

Cut a strip of cloth about 2 inches (5cm) wide and glue to the center of the cover (case), covering the spine strip and reaching over part of the front and rear cover boards.

Push the cloth into the hinges with the bone folder.

Step 15: Line the Cover With Paper

You can line the entire inside cover with acid-free paper, or you can allow the four-flap box to act as its own liner.

The paper should be about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) smaller than the boards on all sides.

Glue the paper in the same manner as the boards, from the center to the edges.

Use the bone folder to press the paper down, always working from the center to the edges. This should help to remove any air bubbles.

Step 16: Attach the Box

Mark the four-flap box with an arrow on the back (rear cover) to indicate the top (head), ensuring that the tab and slot are facing in the desired direction.

We have the tab on the right and the slot on the left, so the box in pushed closed as it is placed onto a shelf (rather than being pulled open by friction with neighboring books on the shelf). With the outer case, this becomes less important.

Step 17: Place Under Weights to Dry

We use cloth-covered bricks, but people have been known to use wooden boards, glass, ceramic tiles, stone, etc. If you are working at home, you can use soup cans, water bottles, or detergent bottles, but you will need to use a flat board (sheet of Plexiglas or Lexan works well) to distribute the weight evenly across the surface. We also use some purpose-built weights from Gaylord and Talas.

You should use blotters or clean waste paper to help wick away moisture.

Step 18: Finished!

You may want to flex the joints a bit and check to make sure that everything is glued securely.